Joy, Does your perspective need a ‘reboot’?

Philippians 2:14-17 presents joy in several ways.   My joy is increased: 

  • godly character leads to joy in my life because of Christ’s work in me. 
  • sharing the gospel and investing in others brings joy.
  • mutual joy is to be had for both you and me over what Christ is doing and will do in/through us both individually and as a group of believers. 

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.”   Paul is continuing in these verses with the conclusions he made about our lives due to Christ’s power, sovereignty and sacrifice in Philippians 2:5-11. Ours is to be a life filled with integrity and humility as we strive to live together peacefully, in harmony, and shine as a light in the darkness for those who do no know Jesus.  The gospel we offer, sometimes at great personal sacrifice,  is a light holding promise of eternity for others.  Paul says he receives joy as he looks at their lives and his own in light of eternity and work done in Christ’s name.  He also claims joy that knowing other believers, working with them in ministry as he sees the work of Christ in his own life and in their lives.   This brings mutual joy and gives him cause for rejoicing.

What about you?  Do you rejoice in the growth you see in your own life as you strive daily to be more and more like Jesus?  Do you feel joy when you share the gospel of Christ with others or take advantage of the opportunities God provides to praise and glorify His name?  Do you have joy when you work with others in ministry for both yourself and those you are working with?   Paul says all of these circumstances should bring us joy.  I pray that you will see each of these in your own life and praise Him for the joy He brings!

Linda

Finding Joy- come journey with me!

I have been struggling as this pandemic has continued with finding and holding onto my joy.  The Holy Spirit has been leading me to seek the joy I have in the Lord.  Nehemiah speak of the joy of the Lord that comes from hearing His Word, worshiping and praising Him and being repentant.  The exiles had returned to Jerusalem and he gathered them together to hear the Word of God read aloud.  The people were called to repentance and gave praises upon hearing the Word.  In Nehemiah 8:10, he encouraged the people to rejoice in being there after years in Babylon and told them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved,for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”    Nehemiah told them not to grieve over the condition of their beloved city but to look beyond the present circumstances and find their joy in the Lord.  I need the same today.

So… I am going in search of my joy- seeking restoration, joy filled living and complete joy that can only be found in Christ.   God is pointing me to Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  Since I have been to Philippi, I can visualize Paul’s discussions there, the friends he made in that city and how he developed a love for them.  Come journey with me through the book of Philippians and see what joys we find together in the Lord.

A key verse with a gigantic promise as we begin our seeking His joy comes from John 15:11 where Jesus said, “I have told you this (of our need to abide in Him) so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”   God desires that we have complete joy that is found in Him alone.  Let us tap into that joy, especially in these troubled times, and feel His restoration within us.  That joy will bubble up and spill over in every area of our lives.   Let the joy of the Lord lead you, and me, today and bring you peace within your soul.

nehemiah 8 10Let’s seek joy this summer together in Him!

Linda

Faith- does it really matter?

faith-mattersAs we all struggle with the racism that has surfaced yet again in America, we need to seriously ask ourselves if faith matters. People are carrying signs that say “Black Lives Matter” which is so true- as all people matter. We are all precious and made in God’s image. The question I am pondering is does ‘faith matter’? If it indeed does, how is it manifesting itself in your life?

As Christians we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and God is working within us.  That should make a difference in the way we see our world and the people, animals and the creation that make up our world.   We should be concerned about our life and the lives of others.  Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; make and female he created them.”  He created all of us and our faith brings God into us.  Our faith in God allows us to work and live for Him.  Many of God’s attributes are for Him alone- only He is Incomprehensible, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Sovereign and Almighty.  However, many of God’s attributes are characteristics that He desires us to emulate.

ephesians-3-17If we want to be more and more like Jesus, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to develop those characteristics within us.  He desires that we are kind, loving faithful, thankful, show goodness, gentleness, joy and experience His peace.  If we are to mature in faith, the actual term is sanctification, the we need to work our our faith and live it.  It does matter – it matters to God and it matters to me.  Jeremiah 9:24 tell us what pleases God, “But let him who boast boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth.  For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”  Through faith we can know God, and w can act in ways that bring Him glory and us good.

Just like ‘black lives matter’, so faith matters. It matters to you and to me. We need to humble ourselves and be open to God’s leading in our lives. When Solomon was dedicating the temple in Jerusalem, God promised a way to return to Him and save their land should they veer off course. “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” 2 Chronicles 7:14

way-we-liveLet us pray for our nation and humble ourselves seeking to do as Jesus would when dealing with others… Faith in God and Love are the ways to peace.  Faith matters, let the light of Christ shine in and through you today.

Linda

Love is the answer… live it! Like Jesus.

Troubled times can lead to fear, confusion, despair, alienation from God (self-imposed) and violence when they are not met face to face by Jesus.  When clinging and looking to Jesus, one can see hope, resources, direction, a drawing nearer to Him, and peace.   I have gathered a few quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that are pertinent to our times- I pray they will help direct you towards peace and hope.  He possessed it and lived it during his lifetime and now is in eternity with His Lord and Savior.

Dr King quote 1     When we see injustice, we need to speak out.

Dr King quote 3  Jesus teaches us to love one another.  Unbelievers will know we are Christians because of the love for one another.

We cannot hide our heads in the sand and say – OH, racism will get better on its own- no we have to stand and confront it each time it appears in our midst.  We cannot ignore it like those who persecuted the Jews during WWII.   Racism in any form is deadly.

Dr King quote 5

As I pray for peace in our land, I am convinced that faith and love are the only answers to this problem and all its consequences.  Hatred is evil and leads to more hatred.  Christ spoke of love not hate and He confronted many who hated Him but never resorted to violent actions or words.

Here are a few verses to meditate upon today:

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Romans 12:10 “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

Ephesians 4:1-2 “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,”

1 John 4: 7,11-12 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”  11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”

God is love and desires that we love one another.  Let us walk in His love and purposefully show it to whoever we encounter.  Be His love in this world today.

Linda

Jesus brought Peace to them and does Now to us!

Jesus appeared to the disciples and others to show them living proof that He was alive.  He did not appear just once but multiple times between His resurrection and Pentecost when He returned to heaven.  Over the period of 40 days He met in various places to reassure them He was alive, had returned from the dead and that their faith in Him was real and true.   On Resurrection Sunday He met the women in the garden, and the two men walking on the Road to Emmaus.  In today’s passage, Jesus appeared to those disciples gathered in the Upper Room.

“While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’  They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.  He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?  Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’  When he had said them he showed them his hands and feet.  And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.”   Luke 24:36-43

What was their immediate concern?  Is Jesus real or are we experiencing hallucinations?  What was Jesus immediate concern?  Jesus wanted them to have and be at peace.  He did not want them anxious or fearful but open and willing to welcome Him into their midst.   What is your reaction when confronted by Jesus?   Do you doubt who Jesus is and question His reaching out to you or do you welcome Him with peace?

Jesus reassured the disciples that He was a real living being just as He promised.  He proved it to them by calmly showing them His hands and feet- pierced at the cross, and eating food with them.   Matt 7 7

How does Jesus make himself known to you?  Does He come to you in prayer, in the helping hands of others or through His Word?   Jesus can and does reveal himself to us if we are open and willing.  In Matthew 7:7 Jesus tells us, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”   Be a seeker today and know the joy of His presence.  Be amazed as you encounter the living Lord Jesus, just as the disciples did in the upper room.  Each encounter with Jesus brings new revelation and understanding of who He is!   Be open to Him and He will give you His peace.

Linda

upper-room
The disciples encountered Jesus in the upper room, where will you meet Him today?

Signed, Sealed and Delivered- 1st Century Style

Ephesians 6 21 conclusionMy plan to blog through the entire book of Ephesians during Lent was off by only 1 day.  Here are the concluding verses of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

21 “To bring you up to date, Tychicus will give you a full report about what I am doing and how I am getting along. He is a beloved brother and faithful helper in the Lord’s work. 22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose—to let you know how we are doing and to encourage you.

23 Peace be with you, dear brothers and sisters, and may God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you love with faithfulness. 24 May God’s grace be eternally upon all who love our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Ephesians 6:21-24

What did Paul send to his friends that lived in Ephesus?   He sent an actual person to deliver the letter.  Besides the written words of Paul, they would have Tychicus to talk to about Paul, so they could personally find out how he was doing physically, the conditions he was living under, how his ministry was going, etc.  All of this Paul knew would be an encouragement to his friends.  Then he ends with a final blessing to all who read this letter-  peace, love filled with faithfulness and eternal grace (God’s undeserved favor) upon all who believe and follow Jesus.  Each of us can receive Paul’s blessing and know that he meant the peace, love, and grace to be ours in Jesus, too.

ephesians 6 24Paul’s letter started with praise and thanksgiving for the faith of the Ephesian  believers and ended with his desire that they continue to walk in faith filled with Jesus’ love and peace for themselves and towards others.  Because Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can be blessed by His peace, love and eternal grace and I can share these blessings with others in His name.  Thank you Jesus.

Linda

Prayer, Are you using it as a Weapon in Life’s Battles?

Paul has described the armor of God in terms of those pieces worn by Roman soldiers of the time.  The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit.   All of these are physical weapons in our arsenal for fighting our earthly battles of seen and unseen forces that are against us because of our faith.  They are to be worn in all circumstances so that we are never without protection from God and His Holy Spirit.  The last piece of armor Paul lists is a non-physical weapon that we are to use constantly, prayer.   Ephesians 6:18 describes this weapon,  ” And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

ephesians 6 18Prayers are to be constantly on our lips for other believers.  It is a weapon that is to be used at all times for all occasions.  Paul exhorts us to stay vigilant for attacks upon our faith, trials that test our resolve or ideas that cause us to doubt.  Being alert keeps you or other believers from being taken by surprise by the things of the world that would cause you to stumble.  What kinds of prayers should we be offering for other believers?  Faith that is growing and maturing seeks to be more and more like Jesus so anything that would strengthen the walk, character, resolve, purity, thankfulness, kindness, gentleness, self-control, hope, salvation, purity, pursuit of righteousness….  the list is endless.  All these things we are told in scripture are desirous for the believer.   Here are a few examples:

Leviticus 19:2 “‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.”   We can pray for our own holiness and purity as well as all other believers.

Psalm 25:9  “He guides the humble in what is right  and teaches them his way.”  We can pray for humility in ourselves and others and commitment to walking with Jesus daily.

Colossians 2:6-7 “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”      Pray for each other’s daily walk, grounding in scripture, strength of faith and a life showing great thankfulness.

Galatians 5:22-23 “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”   We can pray for the fruits of the Spirit to be evident and developing in our life and other believers.

Pope-Francis-Quote-Let-us-always-pray-for-one-anotherBecause Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I have the privilege of lifting myself and others up in prayer as we face life’s battles.   Take this privilege seriously and make it a habit to pray for yourself and others so that all would be strong in faith and rooted and grounded in Christ.  Satan desires that we stumble and falter as he wants to destroy our witness for Christ.  Jesus reminded the disciples before His death,  I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33  Pray that we will all be over-comers and live victoriously in Him.

Linda

Holy Week- Jesus’ Friday was incredibly grueling.  He was tried in various courts in the night and early morning, beaten, brought before Pilate and condemned to be crucified.  He was brought to the cross and crucified then buried in a new borrowed tomb.  “Good Friday”  was good for us but physically hard, painful and demanding all from our savior.   Matthew 26:47-27:66, Mark 14:4-15:47,  Luke 22:47-23:56 and John 18:2-19:32. 

Peace, essential footwear for the Believer

After putting on the Belt of Truth and the Breastplate of Righteousness the believer needs to tend to their footwear.  Usually the picture of messengers is one running with bare feet.  Here the soldier, ready for all terrain conditions,  has his feet covered and Ephesians 6 15protected.  But what kind of foot wear is Paul suggesting, spiritual footwear that only comes through the gospel’s good news = peace.   “For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.”  Ephesians 6:15

How does the peace given through the Good News of Jesus protect us?  Jesus promised through faith an other worldly peace that keeps away fearJohn 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  His peace also gives us strength and blessing.  Psalm 29:11 “May the Lord give strength to his people!  May the Lord bless his people with peace!”   His peace acts as a guard against Satan’s attacks and keeps us from being anxious.  Philippians 4:6-7 “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  The gospel message also brings peace through the assurance of salvationIsaiah 52:7 “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace,  who bring good tidings,  who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion,  “Your God reigns!””  Lastly, His peace is brought to us through faith in an attitude of thanksgiving.  Colossians 3:17 colossians 3 17“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  This attitude of thankfulness allows God’s peace to rule in our lives.  Peace will guard and keep us  moving forward with confidence in God and His plan to give out the Good News of Jesus.

As you pray and think on God’s Word today, remember the peace that comes through Jesus confounds Satan and brings glory to God.  When have you experienced this other worldly peace that gave you strength, kept away your fears, assured you of your salvation, caused you to be thankful and gave you a mind that was calm and resting in Him?  It is this peace that all believers need to possess, grab hold of, hold close, as they witness and walk each day living for Jesus.  Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can have peace filling my life as I strive to walk in witness to His truth.

Linda

Holy Week – on Monday Jesus cleansed the temple and cursed the fig tree.  He was  righteously angry at the greedy money changers that were keeping the Gentiles from worshiping and treating His house with disrespect.  Matthew 21:13 “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”  Jesus also cursed the fig tree which was fully leaved and yet had no figs.  This was a foreshadowing of the coming judgement on the nation of Israel for rejecting the truth of His coming.

Cross of Christ = peace and equal access through the Holy Spirit

Paul continues to speak to the Ephesians about their disconnectedness and hostility towards each other, and their great need to see themselves as one in Christ.  wall of hostilityEphesians 2:14 “For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.”   He concludes in verse 18, “Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.”

How often do you see differences in the practices of faith as divisive?  On matters of baptism, dress, communion, music, worship styles, we can and do differ.  On matters of the heart of Ephesians 2-18the gospel- the saving power of Jesus and His death and resurrection, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and His transforming power there should be no division.  As Paul says we are united and can approach God or have access to God through His Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.  Jesus has brought us peace and equal access to God the Father. 

ephesians-2-14Let the heart of the gospel guide you as you connect with other Christians and unbelievers,  so that the truth of His Spirit will shine through your life.  Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, we are one in access to His Spirit and can have His peace.   Praise God for His powerful Holy Spirit that allows us access to God and His peace.

Linda

Travel with me to Ephesus this Lent

IMG_3519
Ancient forum and roadway where Paul would have walked and preached.

Walk with me during Lent through the book of Ephesians as we meditatively think about all that we have and are in Christ.   Let’s look at the unity of the body of believers growing there as Paul preached and taught for 2 years.  Later John also came to Ephesus and lived among the believers.  We will see the aspects of who we are in Christ, what place the body of believers called the church is to God and finish with the wonderful words about the armor available to us in Christ.  Each day we will see the amazing provisions and position we have because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead.

As we begin this Ash Wednesday, let’s look at Ephesians 1:1-2.  Paul introduces himself in the letter, tells who he’s writing to and pronounces a preliminary greeting that is typical of his writing.

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Put yourself in Ephesus and become one of the believers who received this letter from the Apostle Paul.  He is addressing you as a saint, a faithful believer and he is sending greetings of grace and peace from God.  Do you think of yourself as a saint?  The New Testament repeatedly refers to believers as ‘saints’.  He also attributes faithfulness to their walk of faith.  How would you describe your daily walk with Jesus?  Are you faithful?  Paul also sends you grace,  which is God’s unmerited favor,  and His peace.  What precious gifts these are.  How will you use or experience God’s favor today?  Will you rest in His peace?   As Ephesians opens we see that because Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, we can be His saints and faithfully, walk in His grace and experiencing His peace.  Praise God!

Walk with me towards the cross, contemplating our sinfulness and His blameless character.  Join me in daily meditation and prayer for these coming 40 days of repentance and focus on who God desires us to be because of Jesus and His sacrifice.

IMG_3522
Paul would have stood on the library steps surrounded by enormous stone work, telling of the might and power of Jesus.

Let’s journey towards the cross together.

Linda